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Overall Rating

Awesome: 2.27%
Worth A Look79.55%
Average: 15.91%
Pretty Bad: 2.27%
Total Crap: 0%

6 reviews, 8 user ratings

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I Love You, Man
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Erik Childress

"More Than Just Another Beer Commercial"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2009 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL: How many good female relationship movies can you think of off the top of your head? Maybe the women can answer that question better than us guys, but invariably those answers would be met would equal amount of squirm and disdain. What are they going to throw at us? Beaches? Sex and the City? Please. The idea that the best movies can offer as a testament to the female friendship are stories of constant fighting and shallow materialists is sad at best and infuriating at worst. Don’t try to sell that He’s Just Not That Into You has any true insights into the female psyche either. It can’t be that the male friendship is all that more complex. How can it since when it occasionally takes a wrong turn all can be solved with a quick apology, a handshake or a night out while women will need a six-hour “talk” to lay every issue they’ve ever had since the beginning of time out on the table until all is resolved – until the next “talk.” I Love You, Man wants to take things from the beginning and knows that the guy’s code isn’t just a set of rules you can put in a book but an understanding that we just know each other better than women ever will. It’s also the first film of 2009 that delivers on the promise of being a comedy worth the attention of both sexes.

Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) has just proposed to his girlfriend of eight months, Zooey (Rashida Jones). As he witnesses his fiance make the series of phone calls to her girlfriends announcing their engagement, it dawns on Peter that he’s seriously lacking in male friends. Zooey tries to help by getting him to hang out with Barry (Jon Favreau), the husband of her best friend, Denise (Jaime Pressly). Except Barry isn’t interested in a new spoke in his wheel of friends (or much of anything) and its clear that Peter doesn’t fit into their fratboy rituals. His gay brother, Robbie (Adam Samberg), tries setting him with a bunch of “man dates” around the gym but how can those signals not get mixed? Then at an open house that Peter is brokering, he meets Sydney Fife (Jason Segal), a self-employed investment dealer who impresses him with his instinctual reading of the male psyche. Seemingly cool enough, Peter gives him a call and it looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Is Sydney all that he seems though? Living alone in what is almost a glorified outhouse, Sydney isn’t afraid to start a scrum over the dog poo he refuses to clean up along the beach. Their first outing together even sees Peter getting drunk and blowing off Zooey, but she’s just so happy to see him catching up on that male comradarie he’s been missing all his life that she’s willing to let it play out. Soon Peter is spending much of his free time with Sydney, reacquainting himself with his band days during daily jam sessions and lapsing on his current attention in selling Lou Ferrigno’s house (yes, the Incredible Hulk) while an aggressive co-worker (Rob Huebel) is pushing to help broker the deal. Sydney’s quirks continue to bleed into Peter & Zooey’s relationship as we anticipate the inevitable Mamet-like rug pull that will reveal Sydney to be a greater detriment than a true friend. What’s especially beautiful about I Love You, Man, is discovering that moment never comes.

Sure there are the natural contrivances that lead to third act complications but they are not nearly what we’re expecting them to be. In fact they actually lead to some of the film’s most surprising and unexpectedly touching moments. Not a touchy-feely effort by any stretch but the screenplay by John Hamburg and Larry Levin does manage to earn the inevitable proclamation of its title without sounding like just another beer commercial punchline. This is a film that honestly approaches the male bond as an integral part of a guy’s life and not just some cliched crutch that women view as a distraction to act like loud jackasses or take a break from them as a whole. When Sydney gives his inappropriate toast at a family dinner (sure to get the film’s biggest “did he just say that?” delayed laugh) not only does it open up a long-subdued conversation between Peter and Zooey but it wisely shows Sydney feeling horribly about his actions. So many comedies about beer and broads are content with keeping its male counterparts as one-trick-hornies instead of examining a true friendship in its later stages. All the queries about what may be an alien premise to most guys (how does one go their whole life without a best friend or two?) are answered early on and the enthusiasm that Peter develops is authentic without the compulsion of having him become just another irresponsible guy’s guy.

Just as many of the SNL/SCTV gang dominated many of the best comedies of the ‘80s, it seems as if the collection of comic actors that began organizing under the auspices of Adam McKay and Judd Apatow have already trumped those classics in just under a half-decade. The 40 Year-Old Virgin is, unquestionably, one of the best films about the interaction between guys in the modern era, ranking with others like Diner, Swingers and Beautiful Girls. Look at just the last few years though where we’ve seen Knocked Up, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and even something as goofball as Step Brothers or Role Models (which was Kiss-centric to I Love You, Man’s Rush-centric.) Those formers are some of the best comedies in years and they are have one thing in common in being a lot wiser about the intricacies of their central relationships than solely resting on the comic situations they get themselves into or how many references their dialogue can fit in. They also contain a collection of actors, from lead role to the one-sceners, who work so well together that it seems impossible they will ever fail to produce two hours of worthwhile entertainment. These are naturals and everyone plays their role (upfront, small or underwritten) just perfectly.

Favreau and Pressly as the constantly fighting couple trading girl favor for guy favor that we all know get some of the film’s best asides. A too underused J.K. Simmons as Peter’s father gets in and out with his always welcome contribution. Andy Samburg nicely underplays the gay brother and delivers, maybe, the most honest emotional beat of the film. Thomas Lennon (aka Lt. Dangle from Reno 911) also keeps his short shorts in check as one of Peter’s potential gentleman suitors and steals more than a few scenes. Rashida Jones appears to have the most thankless role as the reactor to Peter’s newfound friendship, but despite not having the big laugh lines as most of the guys in the film, it’s important that she becomes a beacon of understanding rather than a port of shrewness that has us believing Peter would be better off marrying Sydney than her. Of course, the film rests on the shoulders of Paul Rudd and Jason Segal. Segal’s work as the sympathetic bunlde of flaws in Forgetting Sarah Marshall was stellar. Here, in a role that could easily have turned into more of a straight-up antagonist, Segal finds the right balance between bad influence and trusted confidant and even his loonier bits have a root in alpha male reality. And what can be said about Rudd that hasn’t been said already. If there are three better actors working within comedy today, I certainly haven’t seen them and the opinion would be wrong anyway. Rudd’s commitment to specific character angles such as his naivete with nicknames and inability to conjure up exact accents makes even the moments that don’t work funnier as the film progresses and he plays Peter’s straight man to such perfection that even the dudes questioning his straightness might find a little of themselves in him. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

In a time where ridiculous plays-on-words like “bromance” and “man dates” have simplified the male bond into punchlines for women to easily dismiss, I Love You, Man shatters those new age concepts and takes the word “friendship” back. You can see it in the characters and you can see it between the actors who can’t seem to get enough of working together. Maybe its just that us guys don’t understand the female bond as much as they don’t understand ours, but while their film resume consists primarily of expensive weddings, shopping and magical, traveling pants the men seem to be dominating this department in everything from Pineapple Express to The Lord of the Rings. Just because Lloyd Dobler was smart enough not to listen to the Gas-N’-Sip crew doesn’t mean Peter has been corrupted in anyway by finding someone he can play a real-life version of Rock Band with. I Love You, Man doesn’t need the “talk” to speak to the guys in the audience, because just about everything that needs to be said is right there on the screen and is usually accompanied by a huge laugh.

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originally posted: 03/20/09 15:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/02/10 Lacey M Had some parts that made me laugh out loud. Drags out the ending. 4 stars
5/06/10 Luisa Paul Rudd is hilarious! 5 stars
2/18/10 Robert Cunningham It is different, likeabe, not into the metrosexual thing. 4 stars
2/18/10 Danny Goode great movie 3 stars
2/03/10 Monday Morning I had no expectations and found this film delightful and funny. 4 stars
8/14/09 the dork knight A few dramatic conceits to one side, it's OK. Paul Rudd is castrated but likable. 4 stars
7/27/09 Simon My CAPS-happy friend below is right,but weirdly enough it works for me,unique comedy style 4 stars
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  20-Mar-2009 (R)
  DVD: 11-Aug-2009


  DVD: 11-Aug-2009

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  John Hamburg

Written by
  John Hamburg

  Paul Rudd
  Jason Segel
  Jaime Pressly
  Rashida Jones
  Rob Huebel

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